Despite its undeniably stellar cast, this unpretentious BBC production from Charles Sturridge (still probably best known for the TV mini-series Brideshead Revisited (1981)), is largely unknown. You might think that any film—even one made for TV—featuring near-to-last performances from two such actors as Alec Guinness and Leo McKern would have a ready audience. Add to this great performances from Jeanne Morreau, John Randolph, Edward Herrmann and Geraldine Chaplin—plus perhaps the most human performance ever from Lauren Bacall—and you have something akin to a must-see work. I fear that the unpretentious nature of the film and its inescapable Masterpiece Theatre tone has weighed heavily against it.
That’s too bad, because A Foreign Field is an enjoyable 90 minutes looking into the lives of a handful of people with various memories of D-Day, who have come back to Normandy for their own reasons on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the battle. Two of the veterans—McKern and Randolph—have ulterior motives: They’re both hoping to look up a nurse who was very friendly to them both. It doesn’t help that Randolph dislikes the British and McKern dislikes Americans on general principles in the first place. Then there’s McKern’s charge—the sweetly addled Alec Guinness—and an American widow (Bacall) with a secret, not to mention the friendly lady from 50 years ago and Randolph’s venal daughter (Chaplin) and son-in-law (Herrmann). It’s not great filmmaking. But it is all warm and effective and with more acting talent on display than you’re likely to encounter in any three movies.